Concern Troll Joe and The Great Alligator Hunt

The firestorm of blogosphere pushback against Joe Monahan for his attack on ethics reform advocates continued this week M-pyre, DFNM). Stung by the criticism – and the less than fawning reception he received during his appearance on the Insight New Mexico radio call-in show – Monahan responded with a pivot-and-spin defense.

For starters, he offered an important retraction to his initial Fox News style “some people are saying” attack frame. Joe’s version: “critics say” and “as our alligators predicted”. This week Joe conceded that the “critics” whom he originally cited as his source were, in truth, just one lone “alligator” — a lobbyist buddy as yet unnamed.

From there, Joe did a swift pivot. Taking a page straight out of the BP greenwashing handbook, Joe proclaimed an alligator sponsored “Blog College Challenge”, offering a cash prize to any university student who could submit a winning PR/lobbying plan to pass campaign contribution limits. A panel of “esteemed alligators” judge the winner.

You go, Joe! Corporate-funded concern trolling!

Consider Monahan’s original crocodile tear-laden lament:

“Back at the Roundhouse, as our Alligators predicted, major ethics legislation appears dead. Are the ethics lobbyists asking for too much at once? That’s a complaint we’re hearing. Critics say after years of failure, ethics advocates should push for one big ethics bill a year, not big ethics packages. They argue if you get one piece of the pie each year, after a couple of years you would have a whole pie. Perhaps the donors to Common Cause will think about that in light of yet another unsuccessful session.”

This is an exercise in revisionist history here that ignores the substantive reform “pie pieces” shepherded through by reform advocates in recent years: In 2003, public financing of PRC campaigns and electronic campaign report filing. In 2007, judicial election public financing, a Gift Act and an extension of the Governmental Conduct Act to the judicial branch.

The reality of the legislative session was something quite different from the account we get from Monahan and his closet ethicist alligator friend.

Anyone who has followed the serious legislative reporting by Heath Haussamen, Trip Jennings, Kate Nash and Steve Terrell knows the real story. The antagonism to reform on the part of one key Senate leader was well documented. And the fate of the one bill Monahan feigns the most interest in – contributions limits, was covered extensively. Passage of a flawed limits bill was held back by Senate leadership until the final moments of the session – too late for the House to act.

Joe’s objective remains laughably obvious. Deflect criticism from his own insider chums and sponsors in the good old boy lobbyist/legislative complex. Shift the blame to the messengers and champions of reform, the public interest advocates who are channeling the public outrage about New Mexico’s recent corruption scandals.

Monahan wants his readers to drink the credulity Kool Aid and forget their PoliSci 101 – that part about the vested interests of lobbyists in maintaining maximum access and leverage in a game that shuts the average citizen out entirely. And old politicos are loath to change the game as well.

Under a new reform regime of contribution caps and Clean Elections public financing, much of the leverage lobbyists currently get from bundling corporate campaign contributions would be eliminated. And an independent ethics commission? Oh Lord! Katie bar the door on that one!

The Great Alligator Hunt

So let’s start a new contest, shall we? Who is the lobbyist/alligator feeding Concern Troll Joe? Let’s call it “The Great Alligator Hunt.”

Cast your vote! Let the speculation begin here.

Two lobbyists surface repeatedly on Monahan’s blog.

Scott Scanland is one. His client list is impressive – 23 in all according to the lobbyist list on the Secretary of State’s website. It includes Pfizer, Sunland Park Racetrack, N.M. Cable Association, the cities of Rio Rancho and Farmington, as well as the world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton. No two ways about it, Scott is a real pro.

But our nomination goes to Bruce Donisthorpe.

According to his website bio, Donisthorpe’s “command of New Mexico politics is impressive… (he is) praised for his straight talk, no nonsense style and above all, confidentiality.” (link)

He served as Legislative Director to Republican Congressman Joe Skeen in the 1990s. (Birds of a feather note: Monahan served as Republican Congressman Manuel Lujan’s press secretary from 1979 to 1984.)

His firm’s biggest clients? Again, from his firm’s (Manzano Strategies) website: “We help large Defense Contractors and Government Clients navigate the NM and National Security Landscape… Manzano Strategies leverages its extensive knowledge of National Security, The Intelligence Community and Information Technology to craft custom solutions for our government clients.”

Yes, this has got to be the guy – someone schooled in the ways of K Street. Who better to help shape ethics reform agenda designed to curb the undue influence of corporate lobbyists than this true insider’s insider. -Advocates take note, you can learn something from this guy. Yes, he contributed to the campaigns of Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham ($1,250) and Bill Richardson for President ($1,000).

Send your nominations and other anonymous tips to clearlynewmexico@gmail.com.  And sorry, there will be no cash reward or free lunch at Yanni’s.

(For a complete list of registered New Mexico lobbyists, go to the Secretary of State’s website here.

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